Bloggiesta wrap-up – so many great ideas!

My participating in Bloggiesta pretty much consisted of writing my to-do list and doing some work on planning and organising. I didn’t get to any of the boring jobs, like creating a recipe index or cross-linking reviews. But since my main blogging problem is time-related, I’m very happy with what I did.

I participated in these mini-challenges:

Amanda from On a Book Bender has loads of ideas on how to be organized by scheduling posts, making lists and using templates. I made a rough schedule and at once decided that I can plan everything but review posts – my reading habits are just too erratic right now. That’s a really good thing to know though, I don’t have to feel guilty about reviews anymore, I see what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ll be exploring templates too. Thanks Amanda!

Trish from Love Laughter and a Touch of Insanity showed me how she uses a Blogger Journal and Calendar to stay organized and keep her “blogging brain” with her at all times. I made a calendar – though my printer cartridge ran out so I couldn’t print out a free template, I just did it in a notebook. I use notebooks all the time anyway, so this was really fun. By putting everything down in paper, it’s seems a lot less overwhelming, I feel like I could actually produce consistent content. Thanks Trish!

I added Pocket – an app used to save things to read later, described by Brianna from The Book Vixen. Unfortunately, I could only install the regular version on my Mac, I couldn’t get it on my iPad or iPhone as it’s not available in the Belgian store. So annoying!

I also graded my website, thanks to Smash from Smash Attack Reads who blogged about how fun and informative it is to Use a Website Grader. My site got a 74%, which I thought was a very surprising result!

That’s it! I’m planning on doing most of the others in the coming weeks and months. I had a great Bloggiesta, despite the lack of progress. I think I could fill days and days and days solely with checking out what everyone else did and suggests for others. Who has time to actually go to work?

A big thank you to Suey and  There’s a Book for keeping this great event alive!

Bloggiesta to-do list

I am loving visiting all the participants in Bloggiesta and didn’t need to get very far before I felt ready to do a to-do list of my own. There’s so much to do and so much inspiration! See what others are doing here.

Here’s what I hope to do this weekend… though most of it will probably spill over to after this weekend. I’ll cross things off this list as I get them done and I’ll do a wrap-up post on Sunday night.

The look:

  • Figure out another template and other improvements to the look of my blog. Does anyone know anyone who can help me with this? I’m so confused!
  • Figure out how to do a signature

Housekeeping:

  • Update my book index by author and by title
  • Make a list of books I still need to read this year if I am to complete any challenges.
  • Add links to reviews of books by same author
  • Figure out the difference between categories and tags and start using both
  • Figure out how to back-up blog and do it

Get organized:

  • Set up a post calendar for October
  • Figure out how to schedule posts
  • Schedule end-of-month posts
  • Schedule some other posts (like Top Ten Tuesdays)
  • Create recipe index
  • Make a longer blog to-do list based on inspiration from the other Bloggiesta participants

Other:

  • Participate in as many mini-challenges as I can!

Running late for the Bloggiesta party!

Running late, but I’ here, I’m here!

I’ve been wanting to participate in Bloggiesta since I don’t even know when. There are SO many things I want to do with my blog and simply don’t know where to start. Even though I’m not sure how much time I’ll have this weekend to participate actively, being on the list will remind me to check out the mini-challenges, the tips, the information. I can’t wait to start reading and improving the blogging experience!

If you don’t know what Bloggiesta is, go here. Mini-challenges are listed here. Check out #bloggiesta on Twitter to keep up with what’s going on this weekend!

Off to make a to-do-list now! 🙂

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

I read White is for Witching by Nigerian-born author Helen Oyeyemi for A More Diverse Universe, an event organised by Aarti. It takes place this week and aims to promote authors of color who write speculative fiction. Make sure you visit the other participants, there is a list here.

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This is a book to be savoured. It’s a story that will surprise you often, with its twists and turns and unlikely plot lines. You will come to care about some of the characters and to detest some others. You’ll be drawn into a poetic, lyrical painting of a family broken by tragedy. As I read, I felt completely immersed in the strange world created by Helen Oyeyemi. Though I admit I didn’t want to stay there for long, it’s far too creepy to live in!

White is for Witching shows us a family of four – Dad Luc, Mom Lily (who was recently killed but is still very much present and can’t be ignored) and twins Miranda and Eliott. Miranda, Eliott and Luc are trying to find their way in a world without Lily, both as individuals and as a family. It’s not very easy since Lily was and remains an integral part of the family fabric.

Miranda is really the focus of the book and the character I want to talk about most. She is frail in body, as she won’t eat real food, only things her medical condition, called pica, will allow, like chalk. But she is a strong character and stays put in this world far longer than I thought she would – and even when she disappears, it is courage that takes her to battle the family’s ghosts.

There are so many interesting things that the book touches on – the refugee problem in Dover, teenage angst and cruelty, sexuality, lesbian relationships, image and how what you wear makes a statement about who you are.

And the language… oh the language! Here are some of my favorite passages:

Miranda shopping for a dress: “It was the sort of dress to be worn by the sort of girl who’d check that no one was looking, then skip down a quiet street instead of walking, just so the fun of it was hers alone.” (p. 38)

The only mention of the title within the book: “White is for witching, a colour to be worn so that all other colours can enter you, so that you may use them. At a pinch, cream will do.” (P. 117)

I love this image in my head: “The University Library is a mouth shut tight, each tooth a book, each book growing over, under and behind the other.” (p.154)

About a mythical woman, but can be about so many things: “She is a double danger – there is the danger of meeting her, and the danger of becoming her.“(p. 155)

This is such an important question in so many teenage – but not only – relationships: “I mean, do you want to be with her, or is it that you want to be her? (…) Look at yourself. You’re disappearing.” (p. 185)

And there are lovely parts where the title of a section is a word which is both the ending of a sentence/section and the beginning of one. And the two sentences are not connected. It’s a wonderfully creative use of language.

Had you heard of this book or author before?
Did I convince you to read White is for Witching?

Weekend Cooking: Menu Planning (and a lentil dal recipe)

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post

I’m trying to organise our cooking adventures so that there is a healthy meal for us to eat every day. With both Joe and me working full-time, we only get Shane from school around 6 and we aim to eat at 6:15, so there really isn’t much time to prepare anything. At least not anything healthy.

I’m lucky in that I can work from home for a few days a week so that helps, but being super-organised is still a must right now.

So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been menu planning like crazy. We know exactly what we’ll be eating for all our meals a week in advance. How do I go about this? I start with a loose plan to have each of the following once per week: chicken , fish , maybe meat, lentils/beans and vegetables only. I also always plan in a ‘leftovers’ night and an (optional) going out or takeaway night.

Then I look through my millions of cookbooks and scrapbooked recipes for ideas. That’s the funnest part!

As for actually making the food, knowing what we’re having the next day makes it possible for me to make parts of it the night before.

Oh and I also try to use whatever we have in the house as ingredients, at least as much as possible, to keep grocery costs down.

Sounds obsessive, I know, but it’s really been working for us and I feel so much better about the food that’s available at our house!

Do you plan meals in advance?

So for the recipe – for last week’s lentil/bean meal, I made a fabulous lentil dal, based on this recipe, but tweaked. All of us, including Shane who is two-and-a-half, liked it a lot and I will certainly be making it again. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s super-easy, I promise!

Lentil Dal

1 cup red lentils
fresh (or frozen) ginger, however much you like
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp cinnamon (or 1 cinnamon stick)
butter
1 large onion
3 cloves garlic (or less if you don’t love it as much as I do)
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp lemon juice
salt
chopped coriander
1 can tomatoes, blitzed in a food processor
spinach
mango chutney, to taste
curry paste, optional and to taste

1. Place lentils, ginger, bay leaves and cinnamon in a large pan with 3 cups cold water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer until the liquid is absorbed. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Set aside.

2. Heat the butter in a another pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and garam masala and cook until fragrant. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste.

3. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Add the lentil and mix well. Add the spinach leaves and mix well. Cook until spinach is wilted.

4. Stir in the mango chutney, the curry paste (if using) and the coriander. Reduce heat to low and let the flavors combine.

5. Eat whenever you’re ready! I served it with plain basmati rice, but it would be just as good with naan bread or pitta bread or a grain of some sort.

 

Time for more mini-reviews!

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter
I am really enjoying this series about an all girls’ school for future spies. It’s a great idea, it has some really strong female characters and I like the slightly sarcastic writing. In the fifth book, Cammie wakes up in an Alpine convent and can’t remember how she got there, but she knows that it has something to do with the Circle of Cavan, an ancient terrorist organisation. But not everyone wants Cammie to remember what happened that summer and… well, I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out! Has anyone read Ally Carter’s other series, Heist Society? That one has a really cool premise too!

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
It saddens me that I coudn’t even get myself to finish this book, when I’d been looking forward to it for so very long. The story idea is brilliant : “Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can “read” fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service” (description from Goodreads). I got as far as them being abducted, but I just didn’t care what happened to them next… Maybe the I should try the movie instead?

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
Fantastic book about a cloned boy in a disturbing version of our future. Matteo is a clone of El Patron, leader of a country called Opium. He grows up on El Patron’s vast estate as the old man’s favorite, but hated by everyone else. Slowly, he starts to understand what El Patron is really capable of and what his own fate is meant to be. Can he escape the life he was given? And how different from everyone else is he really? This story is a softer version of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, but just as horrifying. Can we really be heading for a future like the ones in these books?

A More Diverse Universe

The title of this blog tour organised by Aarti had me intrigued – a more diverse universe is something most of us can benefit from, as we get stuck in our ways and in our little corners of the world.

A More Diverse Universe is about reading speculative fiction by authors of colour, the idea being that they often get overlooked. The tour will take place on 23-29 September and you only need to read one book to take part.

I didn’t want to buy anything new so had a look through my shelves and discovered a book that I bought at a charity sale last year. I’d never heard of it, but I loved the cover and the title. White is for Witching was written by Nigerian-born Helen Oyeyemi and promises magic, ghosts and a haunting atmosphere. I hope it delivers!

Sound interesting? Don’t be shy, there’s still time to sign up!